Friday, October 26, 2007

Tea Trauma

I have talked myself out of going to get milk yet again. I think it would be different if I needed something else or had some other errand to run, but a gallon of milk just isn't worth gnawing through the restraints. I have just enough left for tea, and I have to go out tomorrow for something else, anyway, so I decided it could wait. I think one of the downsides of the Call of the Book is a form of agoraphobia. When I get that immersed in my fictional world, the real world is almost jarring, and I find myself wanting to avoid it for the time being.

I did finally get past the rough spot that had me stuck. Once I realized the problem, I felt really, really stupid. I've written more than ten books, so you'd think I'd know better by now, but it's funny the things that strike me as absolutely essential in a first draft that I then later look at and go "huh?" Unfortunately, it's usually my agent asking me what the deal is, so at least I've learned to catch it on my own. In this case, at the midpoint of the book, just after the big event that means my characters are really, truly in trouble, what scene did I write to follow up on that big scene? A character hems her skirt. She's in borrowed clothes that don't fit, and I'd established earlier that the skirt is too long on her and that's been a problem while she's on the run, and the hemming scene does happen after she's just used her sewing kit to patch up a cut to her companion's shirt after he's been injured (they do deal with the injury underneath, too), and the characters did need a chance to catch their breath because it wouldn't be realistic for them to be physically capable of going on without stopping for a while, but still, sewing? Seriously? I guess the thought of that skirt being too long for her really bothered me, and I did find that after I cut that whole sewing scene and wrote something else, the fact that her skirt was too long still nagged at me through the rest of the whole sequence. I kept wanting to stop the action and fix it. I've decided to use that, though, and have the skirt be an ongoing nuisance that she keeps saying she wants to fix but never gets the chance to.

I also decided to shake up some of my more usual habits. I'm normally Miss Linear. I can't bring myself to write scene D until I've written scenes A, B and C, in that order. This book is a little different because there are parallel plot lines that diverge in the second chapter and then converge again near the end, and the book goes back and forth between them. I think that will work for readers, since they only have to wait a few minutes to get back to the other story, and that builds some suspense, especially since each group of characters has different information, some of which applies to the other group, which has no way of knowing about it. But for me writing it, switching back and forth was a problem. I'd just be getting really into one story line, and it would be jarring to reach a point where I needed to switch to the other. So, I'm writing them independently, and then I'll merge them later. I'm working on the A story now, and then I'll go back and fit the B story in where it makes the most sense to break. That allows me to build momentum and also means I know I'm writing a complete story for both instead of relying on the other story to provide action, pacing, humor, or whatever.

Meanwhile, in a semi-unrelated issue (it's marginally related because I drink tea when I write), I'm suffering from tea trauma. I love the spicy chai tea, and while I really like the chai lattes at Starbucks, or more recently, at the library cafe, I also like getting the teabags and making my own with a little less sugar and milk. I'd just bought a box of the Bigelow spiced chai, and I was so disappointed in it. It was so bland, I thought I might have accidentally picked up a box of the vanilla chai, but I didn't. I tried brewing it along with a bag of herbal gingerbread spice tea, and it was still too bland. Maybe I was spoiled by how spicy the chai at the library was last weekend, but that's the taste I'm looking for. Lipton actually made a decent chai teabag, but I haven't found that in a while. Does anyone know of a particularly spicy brand of chai? Is it more or less authentic if it's spicier? There's an Indian grocery pretty close to my house, right next to the library, and if the spicy aspect is more authentic, I might be able to find something there (hmm, I wonder if they also have gallons of milk. That place is so much easier for me to get to than any supermarket). I did find a bag of the last kind of chai I bought in my travel tea kit, so I'll have to try that and see if I still like it or if somehow the taste I think I remember and think I want isn't quite accurate, or if the problem is the brand I just bought. If I like the last brand, then that gives me something other than just milk to buy when I go to the store tomorrow.

And in entirely unrelated news, just because I think this is cool, there was an article in the paper today about a robot car being developed in Austin. They named it Marvin the Land Robot, after Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The really cool thing is, when they entered it in a race, the race number it was randomly assigned was 42. It's a little alarming how much joy that idea brought me.

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